What is our purpose anymore? It feels like the world won’t stop kicking us while we are already down enough. We have been trying the same things that used to be good and beneficial and helpful, but now it is worthless. A nonstop pandemic, a divided country (in so many different ways) little prospect of hope for our world. There just seems like there is an avalanche of bad news around every corner. It just never ends. The past year has been hard. And I think that might be the biggest understatement possible right now. But let’s be real. The past 12 months have been awful. It is hard to pick out the good when there has been so much bad.
After writing that last paragraph, I really want to go into this beautiful and extensive description of why it is all okay. Why we don’t have to worry. Why it will all end up alright for everyone because Jesus loves us. I really want to write that for myself and for you to hear. But if I write that it all is okay and it is going to end up alright for everyone, well I would be a liar. I definitely didn’t understand the parts of the bible that said we would go through hardships. I really didn’t get the parts that said be glad for those hardships. Today I don’t know if I really get them any more than I did a year ago. The hard is still hard. I don’t really like being in the middle of the hard right now. I really don’t like the thought of being glad about these hard times. BUT as I look at the verses in the Bible that tell me that I’m going to have hard times and that I should be glad about it, I am glad for the fact that the verse doesn’t just say to suck it up and get over it. It says to be glad about the hard times because of what it produces in us. (Romans 5:1-5)
Recently, I have been getting back into running. It has always been a favorite hobby of mine and I enjoy doing it. I love being outside, feeling the sun on my face, exploring new paths. But since it has been awhile since I have run, my muscles are telling me they don’t appreciate what I’m doing to them! On top of that, since I have three wonderful kids and a beautiful wife, who need attention, love and time, the time that it takes to go for a run is sometimes difficult to find later in the day. So in order to have the time to do both, I have been waking up earlier to exercise. So now my muscles are yelling at me and so is my alarm clock! The first week or two of waking up early and going to run are just not fun. In fact, it just sucks. It’s colder in the morning, I don’t want to wake up, my legs don’t seem to want to move the same way as later in the day. And every day I am tempted to just roll over and not run at all. Sometimes when I’m still within a mile of my house I am tempted to just go home and eat some icecream and sit on the couch. Sometimes that happens! I would also be a liar if I tried to tell you that I have never done that because my wife will be the first to tell you that my alarm goes off more often than not and I am still in bed! But, every time I do get out of bed and go run. I am more focused throughout the day. I end up having more energy in the afternoon to give to my kids. I am more attentive and focused at work. And it is easier to repeat the process the next day. It slowly becomes a routine and just part of what I do. Everyday I still struggle with the temptation of just staying in bed or going to sit on the couch, but the more I choose running, the easier it is to say no to the others.
Now, why do you give a rat’s rear end about my running habits? Well you don’t. But I think it has an amazing correlation to what we are all going through with our crazy world.
That verse in Romans 5 says, “Therefore, since we have been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ. 2 We have also obtained access through him by faith into this grace in which we stand, and we boast in the hope of the glory of God. 3 And not only that, but we also boast in our afflictions, because we know that affliction produces endurance, 4 endurance produces proven character, and proven character produces hope. 5 This hope will not disappoint us, because God’s love has been poured out in our hearts through the Holy Spirit who was given to us.”
Did you actually read those verses? It is talking about how we can brag about hope we have in the glory of God. He is so great that we can and should brag about him! Not only that, but then in the next sentence it says that we should also boast or brag about the afflictions, hardships and hard times we go through because those afflictions produce endurance. That ENDURANCE PROVEN CHARACTER and that produces HOPE! I think we have just a plethora of afflictions these days on a global and national level let alone on a personal level. We all have those things that we are dealing with individually. That might be depression, anxiety, fear, being quick to anger and what happens when we get angry. You might be dealing with grief, financial problems, work issues or anything else. We all have those things that we are carrying around with us. I hold onto these few verses in Romans because it reminds me that the junk that I’m going through now is producing endurance. The ability to keep going even when it is hard. (and I think we can all agree that it is currently very hard). That endurance is producing proven character. I love that the word “proven” is in there because it is saying that it’s not just lip service. It is the real deal. Not only does it then produce that proven character, but when we know who we are and what we are about, we are continually reminded of the hope that we have. That hope is real. It is what has been moving me through this really difficult year. It is what I go back to when I want to roll over in bed and not get out (not just for running, but just in general). When I don’t want to keep facing the fears, anxieties and afflictions of my day to day life (many of which are in fact self inflicted) I turn to that hope and it does not disappoint.
I hope I didn’t just give a quaint, cookie cutter answer to how everything is going to end up okay. Because I don’t think it is going to end up okay for many of us. I don’t think that the world is going to stop making us feel torn down. I don’t think the pandemic is going to stop (and if it does, I’m not convinced that something else catastrophic won’t pop up and take it’s place) and our daily lives are going to continue to throw all of those things at us. Life isn’t going to slow down. In fact, I’m pretty confident that it is only going to speed up. And since it is going to continue to be crazy toward us, I think that is all the more reason to lean in and embrace the faith in Jesus Christ. I honestly don’t know where I would be without that hope. It probably wouldn’t be anywhere good. My hope is that if you are finding yourself reading this and you don’t have that hope or is has only been a show and you don’t really have any idea of what that hope looks like, I encourage you to talk to someone. It doesn’t have to be me or even anyone at the church, but please talk to someone. If you do want to talk to me or someone here on staff you can call us at 330.602.6008 or email me at firstname.lastname@example.org and we will start that conversation.